- Project Name
- Apple Store, Upper East Side
- Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
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From the May 2019 Issue of ARCHITECT:
A historic bank building in Manhattan accommodates a high-tech retail showcase.
Griping about new architecture in New York is a beloved local pastime, but in the last decade one company—and one design firm—have given citizens little reason to complain: Apple’s string of gem-like spaces, all crafted by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The tech company’s new location on the Upper East Side builds on the successful formula from previous efforts, winning over hard-hearted Gothamites by giving them not just a glassy piece of contemporary design, but a new way to see a historic building—in this case the unjustly overlooked U.S. Mortgage and Trust Co. building.
Originally the work of architect Henry Otis Chapman, the two-story masonry structure on Madison Avenue is a 1920s take on late-18th-century French Neo-Classicism, replete inside and out with moldings, and capitals, and other decorative details. In addition to these surface effects, the ground level (once the main banking concourse) had immense spatial potential, what with its near-ceiling-height windows and column-free floor spanning nearly half a block. The architects set about restoring the elaborate ornamental scheme, devoting intense research to Chapman’s work and to the period in order to craft faithful re-creations of long-lost features. In the basement, while the century-old partitions were cleared, the vault door was preserved, maintaining a little historical flair while giving buyers the feeling of pulling off a heist.
Not just a sensitive restoration, BCJ’s design is very much of the 21st century, with a subtle handling of such technical elements as lighting, HVAC, and retail fixtures that allows the space to come alive with activity without disturbing its Beaux-Arts grandeur. Fresh and luminous, the architect capitalizes on the visual identity of the brand-name client to create an interior that feels pitch perfect, and that gives New York back yet another architectural treasure it had previously thought lost.
Project: Apple Store, Upper East Side, New York
Architect: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. . Karl A. Backus, FAIA, David Murray, AIA, Peter Q. Bohlin, FAIA (principals); David Andreini, AIA (associate principal, project director); Brigham Keehner, AIA, Jeffrey Lew, AIA (senior associates); Carson Davis, Sarah Estephan, Sarah Harkins, Corey Schnobrich, AIA, Megan Strenski, Chenglong Tsai (project team)
Structural Engineer: Eckersley O’Callaghan
M/E/P Engineer: WSP Global
Civil Engineer: Langan Engineering and Environmental Services
General Contractor: Shawmut Design and Construction
Lighting Designer: ISP Design
Historic Preservation: Higgins Quasebarth & Partners
Conservator: Jablonski Building Conservation
Elevator: Edgett Williams Consulting Group
Size: 10,730 square feet
Materials and Sources
Masonry: Nicholson & Galloway (Tennessee marble and Indiana limestone masonry restoration)
Metal/Glass Curtainwall: Nicholson & Galloway (existing steel windows restoration)
Entrances: Architectural Metal + Glass (custom bronze)
Wood Doors: SUPA Doors
Door Hardware: Accurate Mortise Locksets with FSB Trims; Dorma (closers); Trident (exit devices); Rockwood Manufacturing: Assa Abloy (pulls)
Acoustical ceilings: BASWA Acoustic (Baswaphon); Pyrok (StarSilent)
Cabinetwork/Custom Woodwork: Fetzer Retail Solutions
Wall Coverings: Venetian Plaster, installed by Evergreene Architectural Arts
Floor/Wall Tile: Botticino Marble (all-new floor, wainscot, pilasters, paneling) to match existing Botticino Marble, installed by 9 Stone Marble & Tile
Furnishings: Cassina Met (personal shopping room)
Lighting: Aurora Lampworks (decorative chandeliers and pendants); Erco Lighting, Lucifer Lighting Co. (downlights); Lutron Electronics Co. (dimming system/lighting controls)
Elevators/Escalators: Otis Elevator Co.
This project won a 2019 AIA Institute Honor Award for Interior Architecture
A comprehensive adaptive reuse of one New York City’s overlooked treasures, this project transforms the nationally registered U.S. Mortgage & Trust Company Building on the city’s Upper East Side into a cutting-edge technological hub. Wrapped in a sanctuary of classical elegance, Apple customers replace those who visited for their banking needs and an architectural jewel shines once again.
A prime example of neoclassicism, the building was designed by Henry Otis Chapman and completed in 1922. After nearly a century of alterations and general disregard for the building’s great history, its status had been downgraded to a backdrop lacking its original grandeur.
Recognizing the building’s potential and honoring its history, the team sought to develop a new customer experience through the restoration of its original ambiance. The original banking hall was a beautifully proportioned space highlighted by tall windows, elegant details, and an airy stateliness. Those qualities had been disrupted through the years by partitions, a hung ceiling, and the removal of key architectural elements. The team preserved and restored the building’s exterior, reconstructed historic finishes, and made a few sensitive alterations, including new spaces in the cellar.
Historic finishes were restored, where possible, but a significant amount of reconstruction was needed to satisfy the program’s retail requirements, and many historic elements were missing or could not be salvaged. Since the record was limited, the team relied on historic precedents, especially for the interior chandeliers. Existing photographs and drawings offered enough information for the team to determine their general shape and configuration, but the nuanced detailing required careful research and design studies that were executed in close collaboration with the fabricator.
The existing cellar was a maze of vaults and load-bearing walls, but the additional retail space required a consistent customer experience. Inspiration was found in another New York Chapman building, the Mercantile Library. The original banking screen and vault doors remain, serving as visual anchors and tangible remnants of the building’s financial lineage.
FROM THE ARCHITECTS:
Realizing the potential of the existing building, Apple, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and the consultant team strove to provide a new customer experience and restore the building’s general ambiance. The work involved four principal components: preservation and restoration of the exterior; reconstruction of historic finishes; sensitive alterations, including the creation of new spaces in the cellar to complete the retail experience and support store operations; and substantial upgrades to building services. Therefore, much of the design effort focused on recreating the qualities of the original banking hall by restoring the grand, light, and airy qualities of the space, and reconstructing many of the finishes and fixtures lost through time.
Considerable portions of the building’s Indiana Limestone and Tennessee Pink Marble had been degraded. In addition, many windows required significant reconstruction. With thorough analysis to identify the original paint and grout colors, the entire exterior was restored to reflect its original physical and aesthetic condition, reviving the unassuming yet remarkable presence of the Beaux Arts building. Interior elements, including chandeliers, marble wainscoting, pilasters, and plaster capitals, were developed through thoughtful design. For instance, Botticino marble was sourced from Italy to reconstruct floor finishes, wainscoting, and pilasters. The design team also collaborated with local artisans to leverage their expertise, including Aurora Lampworks, EverGreene Architectural Arts, and Nine Stone Marble & Tile, Inc.
The cellar consisted of several small spaces unsuitable for an engaging and welcoming customer experience. With considerable structural work, including the removal of columns and thick bearing walls, a new arrangement of spaces featuring the historic bank vault was constructed. The new program includes space for customer training programs and the company’s most recent accessories merchandizing concept. Henry Otis Chapman’s Mercantile Library inspired the design for the main cellar room, while the original vault retains its decorative security screens and is repurposed as a private sales room to allow for a more personal customer experience.